Shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has criticised the Turnbull government for ‘backtracking’ on its 2013 commitment to get Inland Rail construction underway within three years.
Albanese was responding to a speech made by federal infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester to an Australian Logistics Council dinner on Wednesday night.
In his speech, Chester discussed the benefits of the project – a direct, inland rail connection between Brisbane and Melbourne.
But he implied construction was unlikely to get underway in this term of government.
“Given our short electoral cycle, not to mention the vagaries of political fortune, my challenge in this term of government is to build momentum on this project and make its development inevitable,” Chester said.
“We need to make sure that no future government will undo a decision to get on with the job of building the Inland Rail project.”
Albanese was quick to point out that making a project’s development “inevitable” was far from actually getting on with the work itself.
“The Turnbull Government has pushed construction of the Inland Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne off into the never-never despite having promised to have commenced construction last year,” Albanese said.
The shadow minister was referencing a joint statement in 2013 in which former infrastructure minister Warren Truss stated: “The Australian Rail Track Corporation will be tasked to work with interested parties to establish a staged, 10-year approach to the construction of the Inland Rail, with construction to start within three years.”
Albanese described Chester’s words as “a massive climb down” from the 2013 statement.
“The Coalition made delivery of Inland Rail one of its key election promises in the 2013 and 2016 federal elections to win support in regional Australia,” he said.
“For more than a decade, it has argued that the Inland Rail project would be a boon for industries up and down the nation’s east coast.
“But it has yet to lay a single sleeper.”
Albanese labelled the issue “a broken promise from an incompetent Government”.